As promised, here is the second part of my guide to Nashville. In part 2, I’ll talk about:
- Some of my favorite restaurants around Nashville
- Some of my favorite spots to grab coffee and just hang out
- A few great watering holes, ranging from trashy karaoke joints to upscale cocktail bars
- A few ways to get outside the city and explore what else Nashville has to offer
Nashville City Guide, Part 2
As cliche as it might sound, no Nashville restaurant list is complete without a mention of the Pharmacy Burger. The Pharmacy is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike; lines can be seen snaking outside the door with waits upwards of 30 minutes.
Despite the hype, this place actually has great food. The menu here is simple and unpretentious (unlike some other parts of East Nashville); you won’t see the words gouda or gruyere on this menu. I had the chili burger and tater tots, both of which were delicious. The Pharmacy also features old soda shop menu items like phosphates and floats. Try out a phosphate for an authentic soda experience (what soda is actually supposed to taste like)
While the interior of the restaurant is relatively uninteresting, the outdoor patio features a large beer garden. The Pharmacy opens at 11, and they serve beer on the patio as soon as they open. Get here a few minutes before the restaurant opens to avoid waiting in line.
Located just a few blocks east from Vanderbilt, Edgehill is the perfect place to grab breakfast and coffee and enjoy a few hours of quiet time. While the coffee was very good, the star here is Edgehill’s brunch menu, with items ranging from my perennial favorite (smoked salmon sandwich on an everything bagel) to killer grit bowls (with combos of ingredients like andouille sausage and a fried egg).
The atmosphere was super relaxing, and we sat for a while enjoying some of the local Nashville lifestyle papers (my favorites are Nashville Scene and The East Nashvillian). Check out the neighborhood around Edgehill for cute local shops and an abundance of yoga studios.
If you’re looking for a trendy but not pricey dinner spot, look no further than City House. Specializing in thin crust, coal fired pizza, this small, intimate restaurant looks like the perfect cross between a Tuscan villa and a ski lodge. The decor is simple, with the main focal point of the restaurant being the exposed kitchen and wood-brick oven.
We sat at the “pizza counter” where we were able to get a first-hand look at the chefs preparing our food in the kitchen. We loved watching the chefs prepare a range of interesting appetizers, from popcorn tossed in spices and chicken fat, to scrapple (a traditional Dutch dish made of mashed pork). Our pizza, which featured comparatively simple ingredients like ground chuck and chilies, was perfectly cooked and had just the right amount of spice.
Our dessert was probably the best part of the meal- s’mores bread pudding with mascarpone and whiskey butter sauce. All of the dishes were thoughtfully prepared, and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. The best part was, when sharing a pizza and dessert for 2, we spent less than $15 per person.
Make plans to make a reservation before trying out City House; otherwise, arrive when they open at 5 to score a seat at the pizza counter or bar.
The Hermitage Cafe
If you’re looking for a greasy, late-night eatery, look no further than the Hermitage Cafe. Essentially a glorified Waffle House, this little restaurant is less than a mile from Broadway and is open from midnight to 1:30 pm each day. While the food isn’t anything spectacular, the hours are perfect for late nights in Nashville, and you can enjoy a solid meal under the gaze of pictures of Nashville greats for less than five bucks.
Big Al’s Deli
Big Al’s is the quintessential, down-home Southern cooking, hole in the wall meat-and-three, but with a twist. Big Al’s is tucked away in a residential neighborhood north of downtown in the Germantown area, but the short trek is worth it. Big Al’s is open for breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday from 6 am-2 pm, with a lunch menu that rotates each day of the week.
Although I had a simple breakfast with the typical eggs, bacon, biscuit, and hashbrowns, everything was perfectly cooked to order and seasoned with Big Al’s blend of spices. Al, who owns and operates the restaurant, talked to us throughout our meal, and insisted that I call him Al instead of “sir”. He encouraged us to come back for lunch, where he serves unique creations like Jalapeno Orange Marmalade Chicken and Chicken Fried Banana Pork Chops.
Nashville Farmer’s Market
For anyone that knows me, or has read my blog posts from my time in Europe, I love to eat at markets in the different cities I visit. I visited the Nashville Farmer’s Market more to just wander around than eat, but what I found was a great blend of a food market, flea shop, and garden party.
Within the restaurant/shop building, there are multiple food vendors, ranging from Jamaican to Mexican, as well as a few cool boutique stands (my favorite was Batch).
In the separate market building, there are farms selling their local produce. In addition, there is a small garden market with potted plants and odds and ends for your home and garden.
The market was a great place to spend a few hours walking around; it really seemed like a lot of locals visit the market, and it wasn’t overrun with tourists. There’s also a pretty little park around the side of the market that backs up to the Tennessee state capitol, where you can see a concrete map of the entire state.
As far as coffee goes, you won’t find any better than Barista Parlor. Located just around the corner from Fuselage (one of the shops I talked about in my last post), Barista Parlor touts itself as the coffee shop where the baristas from around the city go; the coffee selection features rotating blends from around the world, in addition to a broad selection of chocolates, pastries, and small bites.
The coffee shop is housed inside an open, airy converted transmission shop, and classic motorcycles can be seen sitting in the entryways. There’s also an area with outdoor seating and plenty of space to bring dogs.
Barista Parlor is an extremely trendy but simplistic coffee bar; you won’t find pumpkin spice lattes here. If you like your atmosphere hip, you’ll enjoy this spot; the music comes from a record player, and an overwhelmingly majority of the customers and baristas alike sport beards and combat boots. Regardless of your tastes, Barista Parlor was recently voted one of the top 24 coffee bars to visit before you die, so you know it must be good.
With four unique locations throughout Nashville, Frothy Monkey has a strong presence in the Nashville coffee scene. My favorite location at 12th South looks like a charming bungalow from the outside, and has a loft feel with tons of exposed brick on the inside. While I’m not a huge coffee drinker, I absolutely loved the coffee here (they’re known for their coffee art), and the atmosphere was right up my alley.
Frothy Monkey also offers breakfast and lunch until 5 pm, and dinner after 5. They have great pastries and bagels for a morning visit, but note that it can get pretty crowded at the 12th South location.
Holland House Bar and Refuge
Located just around the corner from The Pharmacy Burger, Holland House is an exquisite bar and restaurant featuring handcrafted cocktails and menu items. I typically don’t use the word exquisite, but this place is visually stunning, with crystal chandeliers and dim lighting.
Holland House is known for its cocktails; our bartender was clearly an expert in his craft, and he recommended drinks not on the menu, even giving us the history of some of the unique spirits used. I ordered a vodka cocktail that came with champagne, and while I was drinking it, the bartender stopped by periodically to top off my champagne.
While we just sat at the bar and drank, there were many diners enjoying a meal in the upscale but cozy setting. HH also has a beautiful outdoor patio which wasn’t open due to the weather, but it definitely looked like a great spot to spend a summer night. I highly recommend HH as a place to start your evening with some fancier, yet relatively affordable beverages.
Printer’s Alley is not one bar, but a small collection of bars just a few blocks from Broadway. While not far from Broadway, Printer’s Alley feels as if you’ve stepped into an entirely new world. The alley is reminiscent of walking through side streets in Europe; although this area has degenerated in recent years with the closing of some of its more popular bars, there is a ton of history here. Apparently, 5 US presidents have walked its cobblestones, and patrons have been visiting the bars for over 100 years.
We stopped in a tiny karaoke bar called Lonnie’s (which only served beer), and had a great time watching the karaoke which puts participants on a stage behind the bar where everyone can see them. A few bars in Printer’s Alley charge cover, but Lonnie’s claims to never do so! They also have a hotdog stand out front if you’re feeling hungry after a few rounds of karaoke.
Although some claim Printer’s Alley is “seedy”, I thought it was a cute little street and a unique but easily accessible alternative to Broadway.
I’ve been to more than 15 countries, and I have never seen a bar more unique than Santa’s just south of Nashville. Santa’s Pub is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a converted triple-wide trailer covered year-round in Christmas lights and decorations. There is even a mural on the outside of the trailer showing Santa drinking a beer.
When you step inside the bar, you won’t have much room to move; its tiny (as you would expect from a bar in a trailer), and everything is centered around the karaoke stage (where the Christmas tree can be found). While you might get bumped around a bit, its worth it for the fun but slightly ridiculous atmosphere. If you need to get away for a few minutes, you can drink on the trailer’s patio.
Warning- I consider this to be a “yuppie” bar. Santa’s used to be a spot only known to beer-drinking locals, but its since become “hip” and popular with the 20-something crowd. My friend Will and I sang a Luke Bryan song toward the end of the night, and almost everyone in the bar stared at us in bewilderment for singing a country song. While I’m a bit of a purist in that regard, we did enjoy a lot of the music, especially a particularly accurate, pitchy rendition of “You’re Beautiful” but James Blunt.
While Santa’s is cash only, and they only serve beer, prices are dirt cheap, with most domestic beers only $2 a pop.
GET OUTTA TOWN
If you’re looking for some great views of the city just outside of town, check out Love Park. While the park is relatively small, it offers a panoramic city view for some great pictures.
As an interesting side note, John Rich from country duo Big & Rich lives at the top of the hill; you can see his eyesore of a mansion, ironically dubbed Mt. Richmore.
Loveless, well-known for its famous biscuits, is located about 30 minutes southwest of downtown. While it’s a bit of a hike, this famous cafe has great Southern food, and you can walk around the complex and browse their country store and antique shop. There’s often a wait on weekends, but there is plenty to see here, and you can also sit outside when the weather is nice.
Radnor Lake, located between downtown and Brentwood, is a beautiful place to enjoy nature when the weather is nice. Radnor has a variety of both paved and unpaved walking trails and some beginner to intermediate hiking trails, and entrance to the park is free.
While we enjoyed the natural beauty of the park, I found there to be a lot of restrictions. Dogs are only allowed in certain parts of the park (on paved trails, but not on trails that went through the woods), and when I tried to put up my Eno, a woman who said she’s visited the park for years told us that park rangers often gave out fines for touching any of the trees or shrubbery. Parking was also rather difficult; there is a very small lot with probably only about 25 spaces. Since we visited on a holiday, it was crowded, and we had to wait to park.
Despite some of these setbacks, we enjoyed spending time here. We also found it interesting that you can view an old water pump that used to supply water to the city of Nashville; the park is currently working to restore it to its original state.